Washington, D.C. - On April 16th, the White House kicked off a new initiative aimed at changing the way America's public lands are managed. Sierra Club is calling on the Obama administration to use the initiative as an opportunity to address two key challenges: Introducing more children, especially children of color, to America's public lands, and addressing the growing threat of global warming to wildlife and wild places.
â€¨â€¨The administration is expected to launch a series of public "listening sessions" around the nation that will allow Americans to weigh in on how federal agencies manage our national forests, rivers, and parks.
Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:
We applaud President Obama, Secretary Salazar, Secretary Vilsack, and Chair Sutley for launching the Great Outdoors initiative. This initiative offers an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we manage our public lands. Protecting our wild legacy in the face of climate change, and engaging the next generation of conservationists should be central to this effort.â€¨â€¨
Global warming poses a threat to wildlife and habitat unlike anything we've seen before. If we hope to pass on a wild legacy to future generations, we need to address the challenge of climate change head-on. We need to create connectivity between landscapes that will allow animals like grizzly bears and panthers to migrate and adapt. We can increase the odds that wildlife will survive global warming by reducing other hurdles, like irresponsible oil and gas development. Protecting forests and wetlands also helps clean the air, store carbon, and fight global warming.
â€¨â€¨As we work to protect our wild legacy, we also need to ensure that we cultivate the next generation of conservationists who will act as good stewards of our outdoor heritage. Our public lands provide an opportunity to build health and happiness among our children. Studies show that when children spend time outdoors, they benefit both physically and academically. Introducing youth and underserved communities to America's Great Outdoors should be a top priority for this administration.â€¨â€¨
Solutions the Sierra Club has proposed as part of the Great Outdoors Initiative include:â€¨â€¨
- Implement climate-smart management that protects and restores natural ecosystems, with an emphasis on ten key ecosystems identified by Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/habitat/ecoregions/â€¨
- Protect large core areas from development and connect habitat by protecting migration corridorsâ€¨
- Ensure adequate funding for federal, state, tribal and private-land conservation and wildlife adaptation measuresâ€¨
- Limit non-climate hurdles wildlife face, such as irresponsible oil and gas development.â€¨
- Protect old-growth forests and roadless areas on public lands that sequester carbon and help mitigate the effects of climate change.â€¨
- Set aside funding to engage young children in outdoor activities and employ older youth through a 21st Century Conservation Corps that will help train youth for good, sustainable jobs in conservation. â€¨
- Reach deep into communities to engage young people of color to ensure a more diverse and representative next generation of the conservation movement.â€¨
- The Interior Department and Forest Service should team up with health agencies to connect kids with the great outdoors as one solution to the obesity crisis.â€¨
- Establish a Presidential Council on Americans and the Great Outdoors to advise the President and offer policy recommendations to address the growing disconnect between Americans and the Great Outdoors.â€¨â€¨